Oh crap! You just remembered that you didn't buy a present for your brother-in-law/neighbor/ cousin/ (gasp!) wife.
If they're wine drinkers, you know the best way to go is wine. It's easy to get, doesn't need to be wrapped (gift bags are cheap and easy) and it's a 5-7 minute errand, if they've got good cashiers at your local store.
It could be even easier if you have something great in your cellar, but beware: MC Ice's co-worker is a self-professed wine snob (evidence: I've been out to dinner with him before and he won't let me look at the wine list. He always orders expensive, oaky California Chardonnay and Cabernet that don't pair with the food. The same brands, every time. Needless to say, I don't go out to dinner with him, ever). He "bought" a "special" bottle this year, which he claimed was an outstanding new vintage (again, perplexed as to how he can give this to MC Ice and not know that I know what's up).
Wouldn't you know? We received the same wine in the same vintage last year from him, and when MC Ice showed it to me I showed him last year's bottle. Yeah, it's a $60 bottle, but it really cheapens the gift if you're clearly trying to rid yourself of a case you don't like and are found out. Be careful.
Enough on that -- you're in a rush, so I won't pussyfoot around. I am not going to list brands (unless I know they're national) because distribution varies, but I'll link to posts where I've reviewed specific wines if available.
Here are 5 wine categories you can get for someone special (or not so special):
Category I: The Big Red Lover
1. For $40+
- Chateauneuf-du-Pape from the southern Rhône Valley, which tastes like strawberry/raspberry compote sometimes with tobacco, pepper, and earthy flavors.
- Cabernet Sauvignon-based Bordeaux (look for something from Pauilliac, St-Julien, or Margaux). Check out this post for details on different styles.
- Napa Cabernet Sauvignon -- so many styles and I've reviewed a ton.
- Brunello di Montalcino, which is a little more medium in style but ages very well so it's a great gift. Here's a long post on this super versatile wine.
- Amarone or Barolo from Italy are also amazing.
- Vacqueryas from the southern Rhône Valley is a good approximation of Chateauneuf-du-Pape but cheaper!
- You can still get a Bordeaux in this price range -- look for the '05, or '09 vintages for surefire hits that won't kill your wallet.
- Australian Shiraz is unbelievable bang for the buck at this price.
- Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon is similar to a Napa Cabernet but for a lot less.
- If you get one for more than $15, it will seem like a $25 bottle! Look for one from Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.
- Wines from the south of Spain like Jumilla or Yecla are full and rich, and affordable!
Category II: The White Lover
1. For $40+
- A white Burgundy is amazing and can age. These can cost bucks. If you want to splurge, Montrachet, Corton, and Corton-Charlemagne are three exceptional places for Chardonnay.
- Grand Cru Chablis (from Grenouilles or Valmur are my favorites) is great for someone who loves acidic wines (these are great with food too).
- Similar to a Burgundy but from California, Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay is phenomenal at $50.
- You can get a Burgundy from a larger area like Chassagne-Montrachet and it will be like minerals, and green apples and it will rock.
- Fuller-bodied Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley of Sonoma is slightly oaky, and creamy, with tropical fruit flavors.
- New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has grassy, grapefruit flavors, and great acidity.
- For a peachy, green apple wine with good acid and some different petrol and slate flavors, try dry Riesling from the Mosel in Germany.
- Alsace Pinot Gris is oily, soft, floral, and spicy and great with food.
- Verdejo from northern Spain or Albariño are both light and great starter or seafood wines.
- Torrontés from Argentina is a lush, fruity, yet acidic wine that is great with cheese and terrific for friends and family who like aromatic stuff.
Category III: Lighter- or medium- style reds
1. For $40+
- You can't beat a bottle of Burgundy for a Pinot Noir lover. There is enormous range in style and price...and especially vintage so read up before putting down lots of money.
- Oregon Pinot Noir at this price is amazing as well (although at lower price points, not so much).
- A California Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley or from Mendocino in this price point will be excellent.
- Lighter style Italian reds are great too -- a Chianti Classico, a Dolcetto, or a Barbera can be very high quality and still refreshing.
- A Cru Beaujolais (NOT nouveau) is a fruity, easy to drink wine that people who like lighter reds will be sure to love.
- New Zealand Pinot Noir, even under $20, is outstanding -- a little earthy, a little fruity, and all delicious.
- Right Bank Merlot from St-Emilion doesn't have to be expensive to be great. Plenty of great stuff for below $20 and it tends to be on the lighter side at this price point.
- Some of the best lighter reds for under $20 are kind of out of the box -- Zweigelt from Austria, and Mencia from Bierzo in Northern Spain are great picks.
Category IV: Champagne and other bubbles
1. For $40
- If you're going to spring for Champagne, go for Dom Ruinart Blanc. Yeah it's $160, but it's so worth it if you're going big time.
- I also love Henriot, if you're looking beyond the ubiquitous Veuve Clicquot yellow label.
- If you want to do American sparkling wine, Iron Horse makes terrific wines -- the Wedding Cuvee is the most widely available.
- Although you normally can't get Champagne for this price, there are some great sparkling wines (especially from California) in this price that will fit the bill for you. Roederer Estate from California makes terrific bubbly and is owned by the Champagne House in France. Go for the rosé for something special. J from Sonoma in California makes a great sparkling wine that's more affordable and available.
- Cava is where it's at -- go to Spain and don't look back for the best stuff below $20.
- France also has delicious, inexpensive sparklers -- Cremant from Limoux or Alsace are both solid. I just had a bottle of Francois Montaud Rosé, a sparkling wine from France and it was delicious for $10.
- Graham Beck sparkling from Australia is also a great wine for less than $20.
- Although a totally different (more fruity, bigger bubbles) style, Prosecco is always a fun wine to bring as a present.
Category V: For something different (prices vary depending on quality)
Whites: Grüner Veltliner from Austria, Verdejo from Spain, Chenin Blanc from South Africa, or Viognier from California are each interesting and unique. Or try a southern Italian white like Fiano di Avellino -- honeyed and minerally but still dry, this wine is a knockout.
Reds: Nero d'Avola from Sicily, Chinon (Cabernet Franc) from the Loire Valley in France, Petite Sirah from California, Priorat from Spain, or Shiraz from South Africa are each special for your red wine lover. - the most versatile white there is and a great present.
And don't forget dessert -- for a chocolate lover, go for Port or, for a cool treat, Banyuls from Southern France. For a special treat Tokaji from Hungary or Sauternes from Bordeaux in France are amazing treats.
Hopefully that helps you select something fabulous for that wine lover you may have overlooked! Happy Festivus (for the rest of us). I know you'll get something great!